DSA Donates $6,000 Exam Table to VMC SART Unit

The SART Unit is located at VMC
The SART Unit is located at VMC
In the quiet hallway of a building on the Santa Clara Valley Valley Medical Center campus in San Jose sits a 20-year-old examination table, pushed up against the wall so its drawers can’t lurch open. It’s in such sorry shape that the staff can’t even give it away.

In the room just off that hall is a brand-new exam table with pedal-controlled hydraulics so victims don’t have to struggle to get on.

 It is a $6,000 gift from the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Santa Clara County, and was just presented to the hospital's Sexual Assault Response Team, called SART. It is the most recent piece of equipment in a long series of DSA donations.

 “No one wants to talk about the need for SART because sexual assault is such a heinous crime,” said Linda Richards, R.N., who has managed the program for 12 years and served as a nurse examiner for 20. 
“Victims suffer physical, emotional and psychological trauma, so sensitive health care in the aftermath is paramount.”

 SART sees between 340 and 360 victims every year. Only five percent are men. They range in age from 12 to 95. 

 All police departments in Santa Clara County bring their sexual-assault victims in patrol cars to either the VMC SART or the satellite clinic in Gilroy right after the crime. The sites are hard to find on purpose to keep predators away.

 At SART, VMC’s 20 highly trained sexual assault nurse examiners give comprehensive medical care, finding and treating physical injuries. 

These nurses conduct medical forensic exams, take evidentiary photos and introduce the survivor to the sexual assault crisis counselor just across the hall. They also give expert forensic testimony in court.

“Victims come in with a range of emotions,” Richards said. “Some are very upset, some are angry and some are grief-stricken. Many are grimly resolved to get through the exam because it’s the first step to healing. Many know their attackers because so often they are co-workers or relatives.
 Our nurse examiners stress to the survivors that they are victims of a crime and that it was in no way their fault.”

At the clinic there is a closet with spare clothes, food, a sofa and an afghan for patients to use. Many victims use the clinic's shower after their exams. One woman stood under the hot water for nearly an hour, Richards reported.

The nurses are on call every day, around the clock. They have other nursing jobs at SCVMC, and they still work with SART. “Our nurses are highly dedicated, which allows us to deliver top-quality care to a vulnerable population, and the DSA’s equipment donations match that high level of care,” Richards explained.

 “Victims come in with a range of emotions,” she said.
 “Some are very upset; some are angry; some are grief-stricken; many are grimly resolved to get through the exam because it’s the first step to healing. Many know their attackers; often they are co-workers or relatives. 

Our nurse examiners stress to the survivors that they are victims of a crime, that it was in no way their fault.”

"Sexual assaults are some of the harshest and emotionally scarring types of crime our members see,"said DSA member Robin Hammelev, who spearheads the effort. 

"Except for the victims of these crimes, most people know very little how traumatic these crimes truly are. It is our hope, through supporting the SART unit with equipment like this, we can provide a safe, comfortable place for patients while at the same time providing medical staff the tools they need to collect the best possible evidence."

 Other DSA gifts over the past four years are specialized evidence cameras, large flat screens so that the nurses can review the photos, an examination light that turns on and off with a wave of the hand to make evidence collection easier and a bright red toolbox.

 “The former DSA president, Matt Dutra, and I met in the tool department at Sears to pick it out. He wanted us to get a gigantic toolbox, but we only needed a medium-sized one. Matt was disappointed.” Richards remarked with an all-too-rare laugh.
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